I was wrong.
In this space over the last couple weeks, I savaged the Hawaii Warriors, their fans, and all those noble defenders of unbeaten records—here and here—in an effort to make a point about strength of schedule.
Of course, I was fully confident that the Warriors would choke in one of their last two games—against Boise State and Washington—and turn the whole debate into one colossal joke.
When Hawaii made quick work of the then 18th ranked Broncos on the day after Thanksgiving, I almost put digital pen to digital paper in order to draft this retraction and sing Hawaii's praises.
But wait, I thought. Hawaii has one game to go and wouldn't it be great if they went down to the only team other than the Warriors to beat Boise State this year—the Pac-10 doormat Washington Huskies.
So I held my tongue. And thus found myself this past Saturday night, hunkered down on the couch with a Jim Beam and Coke, watching the opening kickoff of the Hawaii-Washington game.
The stage had been set by another topsy-turvy day in the BCS soap opera that's been playing out all season. West Virginia had crapped the bed against Pitt. An injury-riddled LSU barely eked one out over Tennessee. And the Mizzou Paper Tigers took a wallop from an Oklahoma team that finished strong but fell a whiff short of title game consideration.
Oh, and my USC Trojans absolutely creamed a befuddled UCLA Bruin squad on their way to an unprecedented sixth consecutive Pac 10 title. Props also to Stanford for beating that worthless house of cards otherwise known as the Cal Bears football team, and thus making USC's early season loss to the Cardinal a little less embarrassing.
But back to Hawaii-Washington.
So there I was, settled on my friend Bryan's couch, replete with whiskey and Coke goodness, awaiting what I surely expected to be a whipping of Hawaii at the hands of the Huskies.
And for the first quarter, it looked like that's exactly what I'd see. Washington absolutely overwhelmed the Warriors, jumping out to a 21-zip lead and knocking a flustered Colt Brennan and company all over the field in Honolulu.
Aloha, mahalo, I thought to myself. Hawaii's chances at perfection were about to sail off into the sunset.
Sure, Brennan rallied his team to score a touchdown early in the second quarter and cut the deficit to two scores. But Hawaii looked so absolutely overmatched—on their home field and with so much on the line, nonetheless—that when Jake Locker led the Huskies on another touchdown scoring drive to put his team back up 21 midway through the second quarter, I was ready to go.
With an empty fifth of Beam and the Saturday night crowds beckoning, I flipped off the TV and headed out to the bars, assuring myself that Washington had it in the bag.
And herein lies the underlying message of this turn of events, and perhaps the whole season:
Never, under any circumstances, head out for the bars when an undefeated team is playing with their season on the line.
Too many people shrugged off Hawaii this year, including myself (in an unfortunately very public way). Too many people ignored a team that tended not to play until after 11PM on the East Coast, and often took all four quarters to pull off each of their 12 victories.
But despite all that, these Hawaii Warriors didn't quit. They knew the odds were longer than a direct flight from JFK to Honolulu (if such a flight even exists), but they said to hell with it all, throwing up a big goose egg in the loss column and leaving it to the befuddled BCS voters and computers to make heads or tails of it all.
And just like they did against Fresno State, against San Jose State, and against Nevada, Hawaii came back against Washington—this one their biggest comeback of the year—and proved everyone wrong—again.
Sure, you can say it was only Washington, a team that finished 4-9 overall and 2-7 in Pac 10 play. And you can point to the absolutely abysmal schedule that Hawaii played to get to 12-0.
But that'd just be sour grapes.
The bottom line is that Hawaii did what no other team in college football this year could do—win all it's games. And for that, they should be applauded.
And it turned out pretty well for the Warriors, as they landed a spot against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl and a chance to gain a Boise State level of notoriety by knocking off an opponent with a bigger reputation on a national stage. To that goal, I wish Hawaii the best of luck.
Some will ask: being undefeated and all, shouldn't Hawaii be in the national championship game instead of 2-loss LSU?
Probably not, but perhaps. Hawaii's schedule, and how they got through it, certainly shows grit, but it's hard to give a title game bid to a team that only played one ranked opponent all season.
Still, with the unique brand of choke artistry displayed by the teams at the top of the rankings this year, you have to give credit to a team that managed to succeed at the most basic of goals: finish every game with more points than your opponent.
So maybe the title game was never in the cards for the Warriors to begin with and thus all my vitriol these last few weeks was just a big exercise in chest beating showmanship.
But in facing the Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl, Hawaii may have found it's way into a unique situation: the "unofficial" National Championship Game.
(Note: Bleacher Report contributor Ryan Fritsche, with whom I have sparred on this topic occasionally, has written an article that says as much, titled Hawaii-Georgia: The Real BCS Championship Game.)
Much has been made of how Ohio State, a less-than-stellar squad which played a dubious schedule, backed into the BCS Title Game. Similarly, questions abound about whether LSU, with two losses—albeit in triple overtime, but losses nonetheless—deserves a title shot.
Meanwhile, Georgia was a dark horse candidate for a title game bid, having finished the season as strong as anyone—but was held back because Kentucky couldn't hold off Tennessee, thus vaulting the Vols into the SEC Championship and leaving the Bulldogs sitting at home on Saturday, with no chance to win their conference.
Hawaii, of course, was THE ONLY UNDEFEATED TEAM IN DIVISION ONE COLLEGE FOOTBALL.
Hence if LSU-Ohio State ends up being a snoozer, and if Hawaii-Georgia provides enough drama, people could be pointing to the Sugar Bowl as the real matchup of the best two teams in the country—or at least representative of two teams who deserved to be in a national championship game.
Of course, that's a lot of "ifs," and, by that token, if Georgia blows out Hawaii, all the talk will just be about how the Bulldogs should have been in the title game instead of LSU or Ohio State.
Irregardless, Hawaii got their BCS bowl game, and that is a huge accomplishment no matter how you skin the cat.
Hawaii doesn't play in a major BCS conference. They haven't run into much competition this year, and they utilize a gimmicky run-and-shoot offense that results in their quarterback putting up video game numbers.
Heck, who am I kidding—I could go on all day, but I won't.
In fact, I'll go so far as to say that when the other National Championship game rolls around, I'll be rooting for the Hawaii Warriors to take down the Georgia Bulldogs with a classic come-from-behind victory, and prove all the doubters—my past self included—wrong once and for all.
Until then, mahalo, and good night.
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